What Is the ROI of Your Events?


Everyone involved in events makes an investment. Sales and marketing expert Jakki Govan shares insights on how to best quantify your return on investment.

Having assisted thousands of clients to stage events over the last 25 years, I can confidently say that I’ve worked on a broad spectrum of briefs — from corporate and business meetings through to charity balls, gala awards nights, cultural and political events for literally hundreds of industries with varying budgets.

When asked my opinion on ROI for events, I thought that the topic is actually worthy of its own conference — not just a break-out or a plenary session, but a dedicated conference where all facets of the industry could enjoy some healthy discussion.

It’s no surprise that there’s big money in the business-events industry. It provides countless jobs, amazing networking, and learning opportunities. I consider myself lucky to be a part of it and, if you work in the industry, I’m sure you will agree.

So what’s the secret of evaluating ROI for events?

I’ve taught my venue sales and event teams over the years to ask clients one important question: Not how many people are attending their event or what is their budget, but what is the actual objective of their event? I do this so we can really demonstrate an understanding of the stakeholders and the purpose of the event.

The client then sees us as a partner during the planning and facilitation. What I have found interesting though, is that sometimes the client is unable to articulate the event objective. We hear a variety of answers from “a real focus on professional development” to simply “the committee handles the content and planning so I’m not sure how they measure success,” or even “I just need to get 450 people attending”.

So what is a return on investment in this context? Is it that attendees have walked away motivated, more learned, and keen to attend the next event? Perhaps the committee is proud that someone’s paper was applauded? Or it could be the fact that the event made money or delivered a direct economic impact to the host city?

Everyone involved in events makes an investment. For those attending, it is their time and money; for those putting it on, it’s their reputation in event management; for the committee, it’s the quality of the speakers; for others, it is the success of the social events. When you consider all of these different perspectives, it’s easy to understand just how important it is to clarify, from the beginning, what the ROI needs to be and what that return looks like for each stakeholder.

So here are my top five tips on how to ensure a favourable ROI for an event:

  1. Consider the term “investment” not simply as financial but time spent and by whom. Consider the term “return” as multifaceted and possibly meaning different things to different stakeholders; how and where do they fit within the stakeholder hierarchy?
  2. Contemplate why people get involved or attend an event. Is it educational opportunities? Networking? Or destination appeal?
  3. Think about expectations from the outset: Will they be met? Can you deliver on your promises?
  4. Reflect on all stakeholders, suppliers, speakers, and content providers. Would they do it again? Would the sponsors support again? Would the attendees come again? What about the owner of the event? Were all of their objectives met?
  5. Determine from the outset how and when you will measure all of these KPIs. Will it be in the lead-up, during, or after the event? Will it be before one event has finished and the next commences? Or will it be all of the above? Waiting until it’s all over may be too late.

Jakki Govan is a partner at Clockwise Consulting, an agency that specialises in sales training, coaching, and sales representation for the MICE industry in Australia and New Zealand.


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